Saturday, December 25, 2010

The homestretch of Europa

Hey it is offically Christmas here in Austria and for the first time in my life, I am not spending this early morning at my mom's. I generally sleep at her house and wake up at like 4 in the morning to see what my "Santa" gift is, a fabulous unwrapped gift that appears overnight. The stockings are also full of candy by that point which I will get intimate with real quick, eating Mr. Goodbar's and cream-filled chocolate statuettes in a daze as I stare at the tree.

This year is, well, the complete opposite of that. I am awake though, at 5 am our time here so I guess some things don't change. Joel has never missed a Christmas at home either so we decided to do whatever the hell we wanted over here as strangers in a foreign city. It has been an exciting prospect, deciding what we want to eat and do. We are sort of grown up versions of Maculay Culkin in Home Alone, left to our own devices.

We arrived yesterday evening (technically the day before yesterday I suppose, the 23rd) a wee bit burnt out. We had a 10 hour train ride from Berlin, which we had only 13 hours to enjoy from about 8pm to 9am, so we decided we weren't gonna get a hostel and instead we were gonna party our asses off. We meandered about for hours, through seedy bars, snowy parks, down streets with Hamburger in the name, wherever our frozen toes took us. I made it til about 2am, got sleepy, got coffee and a kebab, perked up a bit, got sleepy again (I am officially getting's so sad). Amazingly we ended up 10 minutes walking time from the train station which was damn good considering our utter lack of any information or directions whatsoever ha ha. When we got there we tried to sleep in the FREEZING, drafty train station which didn't really work out. Damn Berlin in December, you're effing coooold (duh I suppose, but shockingly so!).

Anyhow, it was a long night and a journey to Vienna the next day. When we got here, we were beyond stoked. Katie is letting us live at her home for a few days though she is in the States, and it has been absolutely perfect. We have dishes and a bed and a TV! And computers and warmth and relaxing. We get to hang out with each other and not have to worry about making reservations and we can eat stuff that's not in our backpack. It's super super super wonderful (Katie if you're reading this, you are a goddess).

So for Christmas Joel and I decided that we would make a hearty stew with pasta, have some garlic bread, maybe bake some cookies, and have jello shots. Activities on the non-existent agenda include movie watching, popcorn eating, and game playing (Cluedo! Which is Clue European-style). We set out to acquire provisions this morning, wandering aimlessly, and ending up in a little supermarket that turned out to be Muslim (see extremely awkward encounter when we asked about alcohol. The lady looked like she was going to shit a kitten. She was like, "no no I don't know where to find that!" like we asked for slow-roasted fetuses or something). Nothing else was open besides Muslim shops due to Christmas eve except of course for a little Slovekian bar. We wandered in to ask about other stores & ended up staying for a beer which was probably the best decision we've ever made.

We were there for like five hours (we left at 6pm ish, ha ha ha). There were about 6 guys in the bar and this gorgeous bartender who couldn't speak a lick of English (she did know "fuck you" though, which turns out is international!). They all know each other and love American rock (NIRVANA! We listened to a ton of Nirvana! On Christmas eve! In Vienna! Bizarro and so lovely) and all of us ended up doing like 7 rounds of mysterious liquor shots (known only as "Averna") and they taught us some German. Also I was getting my dance on, of course, and two of the old school Austrian gentlemen decided to teach me how to waltz and do a box step, and it was really precious. I bought our little posse a round and thanked them all profusely (gushed, in fact) for letting us be a part of their evening, in this bar which felt a bit like a private party, and for being so nice and hanging out with two young displaced Americans on Christmas eve. They were embarassed, perhaps because they did not have people to be with or places to go besides here. The bartender had some Slovekian friends come in who brought food, and they discussed how their families are far away, so it seemed we all had a family-less Christmas in common.

Toward the end, one of the guys came up to Joel and I and said, "Remember this feeling forever". He couldn't speak much English but he said it very clearly, smiled and walked away (not without also telling Joel that I am super :). And I am so glad he said that because he is so right. Here I am, in this beautiful country, at this beautiful time, with this person that I really truly love intensely and enjoy immensely, who I am committed to. He and I got to spend the afternoon doing what we love best, talking to each other about everything under the sun. We spent this Christmas eve drinking beer, rocking out to White Snake "HERE I GO AGAIN ON MY OWN! GOING DOWN THE ONLY ROAD I'VE EVER KNOOOWWNNN!" which we decided is our song, rolling cigarettes, with floating discussions about work and men and women and when we live together in the summer and parenting a cat properly...... And when we finally made our way out we came home and cooked dinner and chatted more and layed around, and I held his hand and put my head on his chest and... I want to remember this feeling forever.

Merry Christmas, wherever you are, whatever you do. Be with someone you love and make it really good.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

prancin' in France

Oh me, oh my I am finally here. The worst quarter of my life (well, most stressful) is OVER. Not sure how I did academically, but it's pretty hard to care about that since I worked my ass off until it nearly fell off, and I am in bread-cheese-salami-wine land. It's magnificent to be here. I feel like I am myself again, which is strange considering I am two oceans and several thousand miles away from home. I was not enjoying the perpetually stressed out person I had become toward the end of the quarter. I couldn't truly enjoy much of anything because I was always thinking about what needed to be taken care of. I felt more displaced in the town in which I live than I do as an anonymous wanderer in a small French city (Poitiers).

So the whole not knowing French thing IS actually an issue. Imagine that. I sort of thought it would just...come together haha, which sounds kind of ridiculous, but alas. In Paris between my very limited French vocabulary and the decent English vocabulary of many Parisians, and JOEL my linguistic saving grace, I did OK. Lots of smiling and nodding, but not bad. In Poitiers people do not speak English and they talk to me with a look on their face like, seriously? Nothin? Half-amused, a quarter sorry for me and a quarter judgmental. Which is just fine. My first self-imposed exercise was attempting to order food at Speed Burger, a nearby joint that sells way more than any burger joint I've ever seen. Donuts and cookies are on the menu! Anyway, I wrote down what I was going to say and confidently began to execute it. Minor issue I did not account for- the responses! I had my part down(ish) but the whole them saying things back thing was problematic. It was a fail in so many ways, and I sort of panicked and said I didn't want burgers and a sympathetic Joel and friends took over. Sigh. But it's getting better! I bought pastries successfully yesterday, with proper bonjour's and au revoir's and pointing, and I was so pleased with myself, and my GOD were they fantastic! 5 euros for heaven? Um yeahhhhh.

The food is awesome. We have different kinds of cheese, veggies, rice, baguettes, homemade soup, and stuff to drink and that is pretty much it, and it totally works. Living together in a tiny studio is really fun!!! We still have lots of time to possibly drive each other crazy but I am optimistic it's not going to happen. We looked at each other last night and I said, "man you're gonna be getting a lot of Kim." And Joel said, "and lady, you're gonna be getting a lot of Joel." And we nodded our heads and smiled at each other. Joel is...exemplary. He is ceaselessly interesting, extremely caring, and has this tremendous balancing effect on me that I have rarely, if ever, experienced from another human being. My anxious tendencies dissipate and I can actually relax.

When I arrived I had gotten 4 hours of sleep in three days, and I was sort of delirious and painfully apathetic. I didn't care where we went or how we got there, I just stared at everything and held Joel's hand. I apologized that he is getting a crappy version of Kim, a Kim who has not recovered from finals and bronchitis and a lack of space and calm. I explained that I could not really speak more than I felt inclined (no small talk), or plan/organize, or do anything more than...this. He assured me that I am just fine, and he does not expect anything, but just wants me to feel comfortable and happy. And I have been. Joel is in school for most of the day, and I enjoy my own company and silence, both of which I sorely need. I read lots, clean, eat, walk around, contemplate, allow myself to not contemplate and just space out... What a life. Far cry from a week ago, holy moly.

In a week and a half we start our big 10 day journey through Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna and Switzerland, then back up to Paris where we fly home to Portland. It will certainly be insane so I am making sure to rest up for the big journey. Wandering around and taking everything in is the perfect mode of operating right now.

*Well I'm sure you are wondering, where the hell are pictures? I am not too on top of the photos but I will put some up soon I promise! Here is a link that has some info about Poitiers (lots of churches!)-*

Saturday, September 25, 2010


My birthday has officially passed. I gauge this by the fact that the parties in my honor are now over. I had a fabulous run of events devoted to my mother having her stomach cut open, and me being pulled out wailing in such a way that was deemed "sassy," and I was named Kimberly because the other option, Rachel, was too mild for such a spunky little baby. Foreshadowing?

This is the first year in many that I have not specifically made a list of things I want to accomplish in the next year, or thought hard about attributes that I want to make an effort to emulate. It seems that this year, the reflection is happening in a more broad, vague, all-encompassing sort of way. I don't feel the same urge to quantify my progress this year. I just want to grow. I just want to feel honest, in every aspect. I want to assert myself and defend others and love people really well. What does that look like? I know what it has looked like, but I also know that it will change indefinitely. The older I get the more clear it becomes that quantifying everything is as incomplete as leaving everything in an intangible, theoretical form. Life is both. Life is everything.

Interestingly, I feel both the most hopeful I have been and the most pessimistic I have been. I'm feeling very Buddhist about everything in the sense that I am consciously letting things go, and letting them be. My high-strung, misdirected energies that I have exhausted on stressing out about the state of the world and the state of people's lives around it are shifting. My tension between what I consider to be mainstream culture and the values that are what we should be focusing on is becoming less upsetting to feel. If we use up the very finite resources that our infrastructure and civilization rely upon (read: water, top soil, fossil fuels) and people die off (with the exploited people at the bottom of the class hierarcy being first by way of natural disasters caused by climate change, such as the absolutely devastating flood in Pakistan) until there are only some humans left, or none for whatever reason, and the other species that once existed plentifully (word?) die off for the most part....whatever. I hope that doesn't happen and I will work my whole life to make things better in all capacities I can, but if it does? Fuck it. The complete disappearance of life on this planet would still be pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And if I'm wrong and our planet holds the only forms of life in the universe and then it's all gone to shit? Whatever! What the fuck ever. History is full of beginnings and ends. We should've done  a better job.

So, it's doom and gloom, but I am also content. I will do work and have fun and enjoy my life and help as much as I can, and that's all. I can't worry about the future of our planet constantly, and stress out about people not acting on this or that. I'm going for feeling good, and taking advantage of the fact that I am ridiculously lucky and privileged by way of taking opportunities, educating myself, making other people's lives better, and keeping love in all forms at the top of the priority list.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Seasons change, things rearrange...

The transition from Summer to Fall is here. The air is no longer textured and weighed down with heat; it is crisp and impalpable and the trees remain green for the time being. I had a moment yesterday on the balcony of Julie's place (i.e. my pseudo-home) while attempting to read my very intense book for WEAVE (Women's Empowerment and Violence Education, which is the group I am a Lifestyle Advisor for at Western). I was trying to choke down chapters of these overwhelming stories from women from all sorts of paths discussing the hard issues: rape, domestic violence, exploitation, abortion, coming to terms with sexual identities that are not hetero-normative, among many many others.

My particular interest lies in the "big picture" as I see it- the culture itself that perpetuates these tragedies. People who are violent rapists, or manipulative "lovers," or who participate directly in human trafficking, are not aliens. This environment, this society, has produced these people. So how do we change the society as a whole, instead of focusing on the symptoms of the broken society in which we all live?

So anyhow, I am contemplating this outside, with a cozy sweater on and my notebook and a glass of wine. And I am compelled to write a poem instead of reading this book, so I begin to write down my musings on the trees and the sky and the trash cans below, which are uncapped and filled with flattened boxes and dirty bags full of the waste that are the staples of our college lives (read: Lots of Rainier boxes). So suddenly I look up at the sky and I have this MOMENT of Everything Being Perfect.

Sans acid, I have never experienced such a feeling before. The blue sky behind one of the countless giant trees that provide a comfort to all of us lucky Northwesterners was so gorgeous with the green leaves. I could hear birds chirping and I saw a squirrel bolt across the road, missing a car that rolled by slowly. A brave helmet-less biker flew past my porch, overtaking the car. I felt so much awe and gratitude at what an incredibly beautiful world this is and how nature is still very much here, and how in that moment nature and this modern society were complementary to one another. In that moment, nothing was at odds. Spiritual experience?

During training today we were told to write to our future selves (the one who will exist in June) about our goals in WEAVE this school year. I hadn't had coffee I had low expectations for my cognitive capabilities under the circumstances (8am + no coffee = crickets a la brain). I was having a hard time figuring out how to quantify my progress over the next year in the area of helping survivors of violence and providing information about gender equality and feminism to my peers. I concluded that I needn't quantify anything at this time. I simply wrote to myself that I wanted to feel like I had successfully fought patriarchy and rape culture. I want to feel like I was an accessible advocate that people are comfortable coming to. I want to help survivors access resources, and build confidence in themselves and their boundaries. I want to help others find their power, and I want to fully tap into my own.

My birthday is coming up, so I have been feeling extra reflective as of late. I will write more on that later. For now, my heart is full of emotion. It is sad for all of us who have felt the weight of oppression, and it is hopeful that we will affect lives through this work.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Transitional to transnational

(I'm pretty proud of my title, FYI)

Things rolling around in my brain:
I am stoked I have an avenue to output the things rolling around in my brain. I have decided to start writing with little regard for the content, rather go for quantity and then figure out what stays later. My randomness and sick sense of humor and general odd nature needs to come out, I need to stop shushing the freak inside of me. I feel strange because the things that I could count on as coping mechanisms in my life seem out of place currently. Men? Ehhhh. I am in love with Joel and for some reason that is a deterrent (two r's? one r? tempted to google it but FUCK IT) to getting in bed with someone else because I'm lonely and I miss him, which is a conflict with my normal MO which is to get in bed with people in order to cure loneliness and missing. So no men for now. Drinking? Trying to cut back. Pot smoking? Ditto. Ah fuck my life. Eating is still going strong, thank god. My mom has those delicious chocolate cat cookies from Trader Joe's, along with grapes and pizza and a big ass bowl of is no wonder I was an overweight child growing up with Italian woman who just wants to love.

I have been very irritated as of late and I chalk it up to a lot of irritating fucking shit happening. I'm moving, which blows of course, and more blowrific is the fact that I'm moving out of somewhere but not into anywhere else! haha! It's a one-way move to nomadville. Said goodbye to my bed aka my best friend today when we dropped it off at my mom's new house (which is beautiful and a big ass mofo btw! I actually contemplated moving back in until I remembered I'm almost 23...). Side note: I feel if I were a man doing this homeless journey I would be so much less sexually appealing cuz women tend to want dudes with their shit together. But since I am a lady I am "free spirited." Niiiice. Anyhow no house for me. Some ideas for living thus far: hippie commune- "bring your bong over and get to know everybody!". julie's- one bedroom, two cats, endless possibilities for greatness and or varying degrees of stress. storage unit- is that real? big van- it's bellingham and thus totalllly acceptable.

Right now I'm on my mom's couch with her two cats who are curled up next to my legs. God they are precious little creatures. I love me some feline.

A short ode: Kitty meow meow's, you are my pals,
I love your paws o' joy and the way you bat my face with them
I hope you don't notice the string on my hem, cuz you'll grab hold of that mother and pull
and my whole skirt will become null

That's all for tonight. PEACE